|Today, the Office of the Governor and the Virginia Council on Women hosted a rollout for the2021 Maternal Health Strategic Planwhich is a pathway forward in addressing disparities in Maternal Health. I left today’s event with hope. The stories that were shared reminded us how important it is for all to have access to providers who care for, listen to, support, understand, and connect with their patients and clients. Stories with both happy and sad endings provide information on what is going well and what we must continue to improve. The disparities still exist in maternal health and maternal mortality and we have to continue to work to uncover and address the root causes. We do this by continuing to center the voices and lived experiences of trauma and the experts that have been on the ground saving lives for decades. Parents, midwives, doulas, and other medical professionals together play an important collaborative part in successful births and we need to support each of these roles.
In 2018, both Serena Williams and Beyonce opened up about their birth stories and went public with issues they encountered. Their courage raised the issue for Del. Lashrecse Aird and me and we started speaking with family members and constituents and found so many people retelling similar stories of loss and close-to-death experiences. Some stories were spoken aloud for the first time, but each revealed systemic and structural failings that Del. Aird and I knew we had to work to fix. In late 2018 and early 2019, we spoke up about the concerns and we were met with condescension, resistance, and ignorance. When we quoted the statistics of Black women’s maternal mortality, especially in our own districts, people thought we were exaggerating. But that did not deter us. We continued to speak up and fight for our constituents and pregnant people around the Commonwealth and it was a siren to advocates, experts, practitioners, parents, patients, and those who were mourning their lost loved ones. We showed them we were listening, that they mattered, and that they had us as entrances into an often-daunting system. We let them know that they are our priority.
And now, because of their voices and stories, both the legislative and executive branches are on board and working on this. We are focused on eradicating disparities and making sure maternal health remains a priority as we seek to create equitable and accessible healthcare systems. We have made progress in increasing funding for research and education, creating pathways to licensure and reimbursement for midwives and doulas, training for practitioners, and wrap-around services. We also have expanded Medicaid and removed the 40-Quarter rule which both allows more insurance coverage for pregnant people. Further, we declared racism as a public health crisis, allowing for further engagement in governmental spaces to work to eradicate the effects of racism in our systems. And we established July as Virginia’s Maternal Health Awareness month.
Our pathway forward is because of those who spoke up about their experiences. Silence can often mask an issue. So, to those who have spoken up, thank you. You are inspiring people you may not have even met. We are here working with you and working to make better health outcomes a reality for all. Michelle Strucke, Vice-Chair of the Virginia Council on Women spoke about the importance of having life-saving care readily available. Diana Gates uplifted the importance of “cultural humility” and self-awareness to foster better relationship-building in the reproductive healthcare space. Aisha Johnson, a member of the Council on Women, was not comfortable at first telling her story but spoke up because she felt like people were listening and that it could provide helpful information. These women are bringing light to important issues and inspiring others to do the same.
The rollout of the next steps for maternal health in the Commonwealth was of a strategic roadmap for how we can continue to create better outcomes for residents addressing the intersectional needs that lead to disparities in care and outcomes. I look forward to the work ahead with the Administration, my colleagues like Delegate Aird, our constituents, and the birthing community who work every day to improve the quality of lives of their patients.
If you are interested in joining our work, please respond to this email!
Marcia S. "Cia" Price
Delegate, 95th District
Be the change. Do the work.